Venezuela says payments to COVAX vaccine system have been blocked
CARACAS – Venezuelan officials said on Thursday that the country’s government was unable to make a payment required to receive the coronavirus vaccines due to transfers to the world COVAX vaccination program had been blocked.
The government of President Nicolas Maduro said for months that it was unable to pay the COVAX program due to U.S. sanctions, then announced in March that it had made almost all of the required payment of $ 120 million.
Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, on a TV show Thursday, said the government had been unable to repay the remaining $ 10 million because four operations had been blocked.
“The financial system, which is also behind the American lobby, has the power to block resources that can be used to immunize the people of Venezuela,” Rodriguez said.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza then tweeted a copy of a letter from COVAX claiming to have received information from Swissbank UBS that four transactions, totaling $ 4.6 million, “have been blocked and under investigation.”
It was not immediately clear who blocked operations or why.
UBS, when asked to comment, said that for legal and regulatory reasons he was “unable to comment on issues relating to potential customer relationships.”
COVAX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
the COVAX letter note Venezuela has expressed interest in the Johnson & Johnson and Novavax vaccines.
Maduro’s government this year began negotiating with opposition leader Juan Guaido to pay COVAX vaccines using funds frozen in the United States via Washington’s sanctions against Maduro.
In March, Venezuelan officials announced that they had managed to pay for the vaccines themselves and have since withdrawn from talks over using the frozen funds.
In recent weeks, authorities have started immunizing medical personnel and the elderly using doses provided by Russia and China. Participants complained about the confusion in the process, and opposition leaders say it lacks transparency.
Venezuela has reported 246,764 coronavirus cases and 2,764 deaths, although critics say the actual numbers are likely higher due to underreporting and limited testing.